Fructose has been taking a beating in the media and among medical professionals for the past few years. A new study by researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital may have just thrown a wrench in the works for those naysayers against fructose.
So what is the big deal about fructose anyway? Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar that is found in fruits. A lot of focus has been placed lately on the influence of fructose intake and the rates of obesity. As one who grew up with the saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away”, I have always been skeptical and a bit confused by this sudden attack on what seems to be a very benign substance. According to the senior author of this study, Dr. John Sievenpiper, he suggests “that the problem is likely one of overconsumption, not fructose.”
War on Fructose
So what started this attack on all things fructose? It seems that it stems mostly from one man’s research. His name is Dr. Robert Lustig, MD, UCSF Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Endocrinology. He is a very passionate proponent of eliminating sugar, particularly fructose from the diet. His YouTube video Sugar: The Bitter Truth became a viral sensation and not only affected the common reader, but also found its way into hospital practice. Back in May, health blogger, David Despain, interviewed Dr. John Sievenpiper in Fate of Fructose: An Interview with Dr. David Sievenpiper. In this interview, Sievenpiper says, “ We had an endocrinologist here at our hospital at University of Toronto who was telling patients not to consume fruit because of the fructose content precisely because of all the commentaries, editorials, and reviews that Rob Lustig had been publishing.” That goes to show the amount of influence he’s had on this subject. Now it is worth noting, Sievenpiper has a great deal of respect for Lustig however, he feels his passion may be blinding him to the real data.
A Different View of the Data
Sievenpiper’s study reviewed 18 trials with 209 participants who had both Type 1 and 2 diabetes. Many previous assumptions about fructose in these studies came from animal data. Dr. Sievenpiper set out to study the human effects. In some of the reviews they actually found that fructose improved blood sugar control so much that it equaled what could be achieved with an oral antidiabetic drug.
“Attention needs to go back where it belongs, which is on the concept of moderation,” said Adrian Cozma, the lead author of the paper and a research assistant with Dr. Sievenpiper.
After reading this study, if appears that moderation is the key. Most of the negative effects attributed to fructose can actually be attributed to overeating. This information must be taken with caution, as the researchers suggest that longer studies are needed to get a better understanding.